Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Coffee: Hot, Black, & Strong (Unless You're a Little Bit Crazy...)

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink. New contestants: Virgins; New feedback and comments: Vivacious; Not meeting deadlines: Vile. For everything else, there's me.

Welcome to Week 17.

Week 17.
My Challenger: Kelly Garriott Waite
My Challenge: The bitterness of black coffee and the subtlety of...
Who I am Challenging: Katri
What I Challenged Them With: Write a story--I don't care what it's actually about, but every sentence--EVERY SENTENCE--must begin with a vowel: A, E, I, O, or U. It cannot be poetry, and it must be at least 500 words long. (I hope she doesn't hate me too much for that... I guess we'll see!)


Some things to note about coffee in our family.
  • It must be black
  • It must be strong
  • It must be hot
Sometimes we get a little wild and crazy, mind you: a little Irish creamer here, a cube of brown sugar there, and on the really crazy days, a shot of Hazelnut rum, just to make sure the heat reaches your bones.

It started with this woman here--at least, as far as I know. My great-grandmother, Ella Mae (Dawson) Zartman. She was never without a cup of coffee in her hand. You could say it was her only vice, but had I known her better, I probably could list more. She, her one brother, and her three younger sisters came over from Ireland only to end up in an orphanage when their parents died. Nanny told stories of sneaking into the kitchen at night to steal bread with ketchup spread over it, and, when caught, of the severe punishments. The bread was always for her younger siblings; she wouldn't dare let them get into trouble getting caught doing it themselves. As soon as she turned eighteen, she legally adopted all of her siblings and moved them out of the orphanage.

One story I fondly remember is when my mother's two brothers were young, they wanted to play fire fighter. My great-grandmother said, "Okay," and presently started a fire in her kitchen sink so they would have a fire to put out. That's just how my great-grandmother rolled. I never remember her kitchen wanting for company, and, on those long, hot summer days when we great-grandkids tired of running though the woods or splashing in the creek, there were only two places to go: Grandmom's house, and Nanny's house. Grandmom's house had cable, but a lot--a lot--of rules. Nanny's house, on the other hand? Had coffee.

She had started her three children out young--they had a farm to run, after all, and breakfast wasn't breakfast unless there was a hot pot of coffee. She continued with my mother and uncles, as they lived just a stone's throw away--up the driveway in the renovated barn--and as they came to and from the bus, there Nanny was, hand around a hot mug of coffee and a big smile (noted, ironically, that in this picture she is definitely not smiling, but then again, I can only imagine there wasn't anything particularly happy about that particular day with her hubby and three kids all posing for this picture... Perhaps they had run out of coffee?)

Then when her five great grandkids came along? Well, that deserved some coffee, too. And being as how we were also only a stone's throw away--just across the creek from the renovated barn my mother had grown up in--it just seemed the natural progression of things. I can't exactly remember when it started--I do remember my younger brother was the first one to take her up on the offer of a cup of coffee. (It should be noted here that Michael was also fond of kissing worms on a dare--but hey, that's what younger brother's are for, right? Right?) And from there, the coffee just flowed.

Granted, of the five of us, there are only three of us--the three that, perhaps somewhat ironically, take the most after our mother and happen to be the three middle children--that drink coffee regularly. The oldest, never, and the youngest, as her whimsy carries her. And though others may have frowned upon children drinking coffee at such a young age, I know the one thing that the bitter taste of that coffee conveyed every time it was poured into a mug and handed to someone: love.

You see, even now, when I get together with my mother, the first thing we do is order a cup of coffee. Caffeinated. Black. (Unless we're feeling a little crazy...) When I visit either one of my sisters' houses, I know I can count on that coffee. When I see my younger brother? Coffee. (Sans worms, thank you...)

And then, once our mugs are full with the strong, bitter flavor wafting up to our nostrils, then we can talk. Laugh. Chit-chat. Whatever.

By 1986, at my Nanny and Pop-pops 50th wedding anniversary, the love and coffee of two people had exploded into their three children (and their spouses), seven grandchildren (and their spouses), and (at the time) ten great-grandchildren. Before they both passed away, that total of great-grandchildren had surpassed fifteen, with one great-great-grandchild. (Yours truly can be seen, third from the right, bottom row...)

Perhaps it's not as subtle as my challenger intended (though I honestly wasn't sure what my challenger intended--all I could think of for days was an angry little Sicilian wagering the life of a princess--don't ask why... It's inconceivable...), but the more I thought about my coffee, more and more my thoughts turned to that of my Nanny, and the subtle ways she showed us her love through the one thing in life she knew she could always count on, through the good times and the bad, through the lean years and the fat years, and always in her kitchen crowded with family and friends: coffee.



And strong.

(Unless she was feeling a little crazy...)

Previous Challenges I have answered:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Bad

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink. New contestants: Twisted; New feedback and comments: Terrific; Not meeting deadlines: Terrible. For everything else, there's me.

Welcome to Week 16.

Week 16.
My Challenger: Head Ant
My Challenge: You can't remember the last 48 hours of your life and all you have in your possession are a plastic bear, a thimble, and a rubber chicken.
Who I am Challenging: Bewildered Bug
What I Challenged Them With: "May as well ask the chamber pot!"

Big Bad

I scarf down the food as if I'd never had any before. I realize this, shrug, and continue to devour them. I feel something being draped across my shoulders.

"Honey...? Sweetie?" I look up toward the voice mostly out of curiosity only to realize it's being directed at me.

"What are these?" I ask, crumbs spewing forth from between my lips. Without waiting for an answer, I stare at the bag. I know I should be able to make out what these symbols mean--but nothing comes. I shrug again, reach my hand into the bag and began once more to shove the deliciousness down my throat.

"Those--" she starts, and I can see her hesitantly trying to figure out how to take the bag from me without upsetting me--"are 'Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips.' Chips? Potato..." She trails off, apparently realizing I wasn't about to give them up.

"Chips," I say, and more crumbs tumble out. I lift my hand to my chin to catch what I can and shove them back in.

She stares at me balefully. Through the haze of yellow-and-green-flecked food fest, I notice her come to a conclusion in her mind. Squaring her shoulders, she reaches over, tugs the fabric on my shoulders more tightly around my body, and smiles encouragingly. "Can you tell me your name?"

"Jack!" I squeal, and then am amazed myself when I realize that, yes, Jack is my name. Jack Sprat. I also remembered that I could eat no fat. "Do these 'chips' have fat in them?"

"Fat? Honey, that's the least of your worries. Go on and eat." She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a cell phone, stares at the tiny screen. "Still no reception, dammit," she half-mutters. When she realizes I've been watching her, she puts the phone back into her pants pocket and smiles wider than Texas. "Go on, sweetie. Eat up. The world ain't ending today--at least, I hope not..."

"Do these have fat in them?" I ask again, having not touched them since this thought crossed my mind. "I can't eat fat."

"So you remember some things?"

"I'm Jack Sprat. I can eat no fat. Hey, are you my wife?"

Her eyebrows shot up. "Excuse me?"

"Are you my wife?"

"Err... No, no, I'm not your wife."

"Shame. You're pretty. But I can't eat these." I place the bag of chips on the ground between my feet. I shrug the blanket off my body as I reach around behind me.

"What you got there, sugar?" my non-wife asked.

"My friends." I arrange them on the ground in a semi-circle around the half-eaten bag of chips. "They can have fat. So I'm going to share it with them."

She glanced at the menagerie. "Do... Do they have names, honey?"

"This," I said, lifting up one of them, "is Fuzzy Wuzzy. He's a bear. He has no hair." I place him back down and lift up my next buddy. "This is Chicken Who Crossed the Road. As you can see," I demonstrate by wildly flopping him back and forth with vigor, "he didn't quite make it across unscathed, but he's okay. He just can't walk anymore." I lay him down across Fuzzy's lap, and then pluck my last pal up from the dust. "And this," I say with pride, "is Thimbalina. She's my only daughter." I sigh wistfully.

"'Dis boy is cuckoo," I hear her say under her breath.

It's nothing I haven't heard before, mind you, but being as I wasn't in any position to argue--nakedness notwithstanding--I shrugged, placed my little girl on one of Fuzzy's non-fluffy toes, and then handed each of them a chip. "Share!" I commanded them. Then I stood.

"Oh, sweetie, no, uh-uh, no," she fussed, shoving me back onto the tree stump. She ripped the blanket back up from the ground, shoved it back down around my shoulders with a stern "Stay there!" Satisfied I wouldn't be disobeying her, she lowered herself back down onto her own tree stump. "Tell me what you do remember, okay? Can you do that for me... Er, Jack?"

"Yes, ma'am!" I practically shouted. I loved getting to talk, especially with other humans like they claimed I was, and since I so rarely had visitors...

I couldn't remember the last time I had a visitor.

But there was lots of other stuff I remembered! "I remember Tom and Jerry, but that we weren't allowed to watch them. That was Monday, I think. Steve said, 'It's too violent!' and Joe said it was only make-believe anyway, so it didn't matter. But I liked Tom and Jerry so I waited until Steve left and then I went back in and watched it anyway. They were in outer space, on a space ship of some kind--"

"Honey, honey, no, no, no. I mean..." She paused, stared around at no one, at the fallen trees, the destroyed houses, the dark clouds still receding from sight to the west. Downed power lines crisscrossed over cars and trucks, odd bits of appliance hung in precariously pristine places, and the odd rumble of thunder still managed to make her jump higher than I'd ever seen Jiminy Cricket hop. Her gaze refocused on me. "Do you remember which house was yours? Who or where your parents are? Your real name?" Hope filled her eyes as she sensed she was possibly asking all the right questions, jogging all the right memories.

I hated it when I had to disappoint the people who asked me questions. It made me sad. Once I was so sad, I ripped all of Fuzzy's hair off, which is when he actually became Fuzzy Wuzzy. Before that day, his name had been "Winnie" something or other. Not that it mattered. Before never seemed to matter to me, only to the people. I sighed, figuring silence would be better than giving her answers she wouldn't like. I rearranged Thimbalina, who was trying to walk off of Fuzzy's toes, then tucked Chicken Who Crossed the Road around Fuzzy's neck like a boa. That way they could keep each other warm. I smiled as they snuggled together, and handed them each another chip for behaving so well here in front of our company.

"Someone's gotta come sooner or later, right?" I looked up and realized she was muttering to herself. "I mean, it can't just be us two that made it. Me and cuckoo, oh lordy, what are you testin' me with now? Someone's gotta come, someone's gotta be on the line gettin' help out here." She turned back to me. "Sugar? I'm just gonna go for a small walk--I ain't going far, so don't worry. I just wanna, you know, see if any one else is about, see if anyone esle needs a helpin' hand, okay? You stay right here with your friends, keep that blanket on you nice and tight so you don't catch cold, and I'll be back in, like, ten minutes. Okay, Suagr? Okay?"

I nodded, since it seemed the only logical course of action when people went all crazy in the eyes like she was. Desperation, I think is what Doolittle had called it. Or was that Seuss? They always looked the same, with their white coats and black glasses, it was so hard for me to tell them apart.


I nodded at her again, looking her in the eye like I was supposed to do. Once I did that, she seemed reassured, and started walking away, slowly, as if she were afraid I would bolt, as if it weren't she that was looking for an escape of some kind.

"Jack, we need a fire," said Fuzzy.

"We aren't supposed to move," I admonished him.

"Fuck you, Jack, I'm cold. I getting wood for a fire." Fuzzy ripped Chicken off his neck, plopped Thimbalina off his toes, and wobbled off.


"Squack!" cried Chicken. "Squack! Squack!"

"Quiet," I said. I stayed on my stump as ordered, but kept craning my neck to keep Fuzzy in sight.

"Daddy, I need a finger!" Thimbalina cried.

I lifted her gently from the dirt, brushed her off, and placed her lovingly on my pinkie. "There, there, princess."

Soon Fuzzy was back with a few pieces of shattered wood and some pieces that looked like they had come from a shed's roof. "Some of that won't burn," I said as I picked up and sorted through the pieces.

"Everything burns," Fuzzy retorted. "We need matches."

"Sugar?" I looked up to see the lady standing about 30 feet away, partially behind an up-side-down Prius. "Sugar, who you talking to?"

I pointed a finger at Fuzzy. She nodded slowly, then turned and walked off out of sight.


"No, Chicken, we're not allowed to play with fire. Wait till the nice lady comes back."


"No, she's not your new mommy."

"Stupid chicken," snorted Fuzzy. "I'll find matches." He lumbered off once more.

"Are you warmer now, Thimbalina?" I asked.

"Yes, Daddy, thank you." She squeezed my finger with her tiny metal sides. "Warm."

I smiled and stroked her sides. All too soon, Fuzzy returned with a lighter.

"I thought you said you would find matches?"

"This lights fire, too. I've seen Seuss and Doolittle outside the windows using them to make it. Without thumbs, though..." Fuzzy looked up at me expectantly.

"I'm not allowed to play with fire." I tucked my legs up under my arms on the stump. Fuzzy and I continued staring one another down for what seemed like hours until the lady returned.

"Still no reception. Hey, is that a lighter? Starting a fire's a great idea, Jack. At least it'll keep us warm till help arrives--or until we find you some clothes." She busied herself arranging not only what Fuzzy had gathered, but some other stray pieces of litter as well. "Sun's goin' down, gettin' dark, not another soul around for miles. You'd think when a tornado whips through people would be high tailin' it to see if anyone lived, you know?" She didn't wait for me to reply. "That's what they do on the news, least ways. Sirens, fire fighters, police and ambulances, all fillin' up the streets, goin' house to house lookin' for people and diggin' 'em out. Not here, though, not this time. You and me, Jack, we's gotta hold on until someone else shows up, right?"

She smiled her big, bright smile. After a few minutes, she had a nice small fire going. "Least ways someone might see this and know someone out here needs help, am I right? Now, Sugar, you hungry?"

"She talks too much," muttered Fuzzy.

"That's rude!" I admonished him.

"What's that, Sweetie?"

"Fuzzy was being rude," I apologized. "He doesn't get out much, you'll have to excuse him."

She eyed me up. "Uh-huh. Listen, I'm just gonna make this fire a bit bigger, okay?"

"Squack! Squack-squack-squack!"

"You say somethin', Sugar?"

"No, ma'am, that was just Chicken. You can understand why he doesn't like fire once you know he comes from a family of cannibals," I explained.

"Are you supposed to be on medicine of some kind, honey?"

"Well, the doctors used to give me blue pills and pink pills at night, and a yellow one in the morning. But they never told me what it was. I think they were those Flintstones."

"Yeah. Flintstones. Got it." She piled more wood on the fire. "It's gonna be a long night. Least ways I won't be lonely, that ain't no lie. Got any of those chips left?"

I reached down, picked up the bag and tossed it to her.

"Those were mine!" Fuzzy growled.

"We have to share," I said. "It's rude not to share."

He stuck his tongue out at her while she stared at me, eyes wide. "Everything okay?" she asked.

"Don't mind him, he's just a stink pot."

"Who, him?" she asked, pointing at Chicken.

"No!" I laughed at her silliness. "Not Chicken. Fuzzy. He's always a tad grouchy when new people are around." I picked up a stick and poked at the fire, now very bright against the ever darkening sky.


"I'm just poking."

"Hot, Daddy!"

"Oh, sorry!" I cried, and pulled Thimbalina from my finger. When the lady looked at me, I explained, "I had her too close to the fire. She's metal, she gets hot easy."

The lady just placed a chip gently on her tongue, and continued to stare at me. "Honey, you better than anything cable got. Don't mind me now, you helpin' me an awful lot to be grateful."

I thought that was a compliment so I smiled at her. She shrank back a bit, so I wiped the smile from my face and went back to poking the fire with a stick.


Mission Woods, Kansas. Policemen and firefighters arrived yesterday morning in the small town of Rock Village to find the town in shambles. It is suspected that an F5 tornado ripped through the small town late yesterday during a freak storm, effectively erasing the small town from the map. Rescue workers are still digging through the rubble hoping to find survivors, and authorities are compiling a list of residents who not only called the quaint town home, but of those who were in the care of the Rainbow Mental Health Facility.

"I've never seen destruction like this in all my years of living here," one of the rescue worker, Mike Kelley, said. "I'm not sure we'll find a living soul, but I'm here hoping against hope that we will."

Sheriff's deputies had cordoned off the tiny parking lot in front of where the town's only store, Al's Feed and Supply, had once stood. The body of Lucinda Jamison was found there early this morning, dead, by a small campfire it looks like she had built herself. Authorities speculate that she, as the only known survivor thus far of the tornado, may have perished from wounds sustained during the storm, as well as shock.

"We'll know more once we get a coroner's report," Sheriff Hamilton said when questioned. "We're not ruling anything out at this point."

On condition of anonymity, one source tells that the body was found with a rubber chicken wrapped around her neck and a thimble shoved down her throat. When asked if there could be foul play involved, our source said, "I wouldn't be surprised. Tornado's don't throttle you to death with a child's toy and shove craft items down your windpipe once the storm has ended. Probably one of those nuts from that there hospital."

A candlelight vigil will be held at the Mission Woods Presbyterian Chapel at 7 p.m. tonight. Any and all donations will be welcome to help if any survivors are found in the aftermath of yesterday's devastation.

Previous Challenges I have answered:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ooh-la-la! We Are a Damn Sexy Species...

First off, I'm loving the show Enterprise--you know, the Star Trek show with the dude from Quantum Leap (Scott Bakula!) playing the captain? And the oh-so-hot-my-shorts-are-damp Connor Trinneer as the chief engineer? Ooh-la-la!

But whoever picked that goddamn awful "theme" music, "Faith of the Heart" by Rod Stewart? You should be shot, quartered, tarred, feathered, hung, asphyxiated in deep space, and then fed to the infamous Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal--and that's just for starters. I mean, who the hell picks that type of awful easy listening for a science fiction show? It's disgusting.

But that's not what this post is about. Well, not really anyway...

After watching a few episodes, I realized the show was set in the year 2151. Only a mere 140 years from now. Which, if science fiction is to be an accurate precursor to real life, means we should meet a Vulcan in about forty years, give or take.

Then we have to wonder how accurate a precursor to real life science fiction actually is. After all, I'm doubting there are actual Vulcans. (Sorry Spock...)

Please realize, however, that if it wasn't for great imaginations and science fiction, we wouldn't have half the wonders we have today--like satellite radio, cell phones, elevators, Tang... (Honestly? Okay, we could have forgotten the Tang...) But you get my drift.

Oh, yum!

Where was I? Oh, yeah...


(Could someone stop posting images of Connor Trinneer on my computer? It's highly distracting when I'm trying to type here... Thanks...)

So I'm on my back deck, taking in the lightning bugs, the gentle breeze, staring at the Big Dipper going, what if...?

You ever do that? Just stare up at space, taking in the Milky Way in all her brilliant glory? Not because there's supposed to be a meteor shower, not because you can't get your goddamn cell phone to get a signal, and not because you thought you heard a helicopter...

But just... Because...

Somewhere out there....

Shit. Now that fucking "Somewhere Out There" song that freaky little mouse Feivel sang is stuck in my head... Of course, that might have been a better theme song choice for Enterprise then that douche-bag Rod Stewart... But I digress... For now...

Somewhere out there, another form of intelligent life may be looking at a constellation that they've named, and our sun might be one of the stars fueling their imaginations. There they sit there on their patios, drinking their version of Tang (and thinking their parents are cheap as well for trying to pass it off as orange juice), staring up at a formation of stars from their end of their solar system, having just watched a sci-fi show with a totally hot male version of their species, and hoping. Waiting. Watching.

For us. Or another intelligent being. Another creature or species with the curiosity and drive to reach up to those stars and look. To see what's out there, to experience the vastness of our galaxy, and even maybe one day our universe!

In early 2004, a new type of rocket fuel was being invented that was speculated could make a trip to Mars from 1.5 to 3 years (with conventional Apollo-type technology) down to 6 months to a year. (See here.) Now, after 6 more years of developing this technology, scientists think we could get to Mars in just 39 days! (See here.)

Thirty-nine days. To Mars.

Of course, we should already be on Mars. But NASA lost sight of it's mission, granted. Instead of constantly developing new and better technology for getting men into space, they stuck with the space shuttle program for waaaaaaay too long. Now, irony of ironies, we're going to be piggy-backing with the Russians to get to and from the space station, as if we lost the space race in the late 1960s...

It's shameful and humbling.

But it's also the chance we may need.

Now that we have to work with other countries, now that we have to cooperate for shallow-space missions, what could the brilliant scientists of many countries come up with? What's just around the corner?

Just how soon might we have planetary colonists on the red planet?

True, I'm probably gonna be six feet under by then. Worm food, if you will.

So until then, I'll just have to dream...

Of course, 39 days alone on a plasma-fueled rocket with Connor Trinneer couldn't hurt anything, could it? And honestly, it would only improve morale overall, especially when we discover that new intelligent life, and they find out how hot and sexy of a species we actually are, right?



Friday, July 8, 2011

My Father, My Fellow Human...

Dad doesn't read my blog. I'm not sure the in's and out's why--it could be that their computer rivals the Tandy 64K color computer in age and memory capacity. It could be that he really just doesn't get into the whole "web surfing" thing these young kids today are doing. For all I know, he may view most of the web as a tool of Satan with pockets of righteousness far and few between...! I've never really asked because I don't feel like my friends or family have to read my blog to continue being counted among my friends or family--I *like* it that some of them do, don't get me wrong! But it certainly isn't a deciding factor in whom I love or like more or less (otherwise the husband would have been long gone as well!)

I could call Dad a shit-kicking, dumb-ass, ignorant son-of-a-bitch if I felt the urge (and who hasn't at some point in their lives thought this of their father?) and the only reason he would be the wiser is because my mother or my sister would tell him. (Tattle tales...)

However, I won't do that for two reasons:
  1. He's my father, and I love and respect him too much to say things like that about him behind his back, and
  2. It isn't true anyway...
Add in for good measure that I usually respect his opinions on things with nary a horrible thing to say, and we have a pretty good relationship--a fantastic relationship, truth be told, especially considering the relationship he has with his father...

Be that as it may, however, he is one stubborn, ass-backward thinking individual at times, and arrogant to boot! (Hey, I had to inherit these traits from somewhere, right? The stubborn and arrogant parts, at least...)

But see, here's the thing: He has somehow managed to convince himself that I actually do believe in god, with Jesus as my savior and sidekick (with guest appearances by Casper), that I subconsciously know he is right and am too stubborn to admit it for some reason, that science will somehow magically "prove" his interpretation of scripture is correct (not too mention the young earth it "teaches us" about), and that OT god was of course morally right and good for allowing the Israelite's to kill men, women, and children to live on a piece of land that he "promised them" as his children...

And that was just our conversation over dessert when the parents were over for dinner last weekend... There is a lot more that was discussed over dinner...

I wasn't even sure where to begin...

My father is a smart man--a really smart man, if I'm allowed to boast a tad here. He can design a building with nothing but a pencil and a sheet of paper, to scale, with all the electrical, plumbing, and architecture sound and stable. He can get a notion into his head about adding three feet onto the living room of his house, and do it from beginning to end without a lick of outside help. He can look at any problem, anywhere, at any time, and come up with a solution that works wonders on the problem, and foresees and forestalls future problems that weren't even problems yet. He has more talent in his pinkie finger than I could ever hope to possess in my lifetime...

But I can't help but wonder how he checks that brain out the door when the topic of religion or god or Jesus (with guest appearances by Casper) come up... I don't know if it's the very idea that they may not exist which makes him run screaming, or if it's just that he's been so deeply brainwashed by his father of a Baptist minister, or even if it's something else entirely...

I'm okay with the fact that he believes in a young earth, believe it or not. I'll argue with him the facts and theories of the matter til the cows come home on it, if for no other reason than I maintain hope that a seed of logic and rationality will plant itself and he may actually look into the pseudo-science he's been peddled all these years. But it really makes no difference here or there if he believes the earth is young or old--it really doesn't.

I could even care less when he or Mom tell me they're praying for me, or that they felt god helped them make a decision, or that they felt better about this or that after some deep thought and prayer about a situation--it floats their boat, it keeps them sane, whatever...

And far be it from me to tell people what crutches they can or cannot lean on when times are tough.


And I'm not sure why he thinks this was okay. I'm not even sure if he even realizes how just not okay this was...

And I've promised myself I'm going to call him to talk about this just as soon as it stops making me angry just thinking about it...

You see, he told me what I believe. Not what he thinks I should believe. Not what he wishes I would believe. He said, "You know I am right, and you know there's a god."

Excuse me?

I think I actually said, "Huh?" The "excuse me" may have been implied. I know my head was shaking, but then again, we both shake our heads at one another when we are busy disagreeing vehemently on all things of a supernatural nature. It's kind of how we Hughes's role. When we disagree, we shake our heads and try to make sure that the frowns on our face, with matching furrowed brows, conveys the deep amount of disagreement we are currently feeling.

How we Zartman's role, however, is a different matter entirely. (Kudos and props to my mom's side...) We speak up, say what we mean, mean what we say, exercise our right to free speech, and don't give a great big goddamn who agrees or disagrees.

So while my Hughes half is busy shaking it's head, furrowing it's brow, and frowning most vehemently, my Zartman half is going, "How can you even think that?! Do you not hear the words coming out of my mouth?!"

We all say stupid things. A lot of stupid things. I realize my parents are also prone to saying stupid things. A lot of stupid things. They are not perfect, they are people. Just as I am not perfect, and also say stupid things, mostly because I am a product of them, but partly because I am human. (Hughes arrogance notwithstanding...)

But he sat there on my deck and told me what I believe.

I'm not sure if he gets just how "not okay" that is. I may be wrong (see above about saying stupid things), but I'm pretty damn sure I don't run around telling people what they actually believe "deep down." I share what my beliefs are. I share my opinion on what your beliefs are. Hell, I've called their beliefs stupid (an opinion I still hold to be true) in what I feel are tactfully blunt ways, meant in love and with what I feel is a proper amount of respect. (Again, though, I could be wrong, but I doubt they would continue to talk to me, offspring-status notwithstanding, if I were that rude, outrageous, or disrespectful...) But I'm also pretty sure I would never feel the urge to say "This is what you believe, you just don't want to admit it."

Never mind that that's supposed to be god's job (knowing what people are thinking and feeling), never mind that "psychic" has never been a family trait. If fact, let's even disregard the fact that maybe he hopes and truly believes that I do believe--is it really okay to make such assumptions about another person's life and values? It isn't like I decided to be an atheist while on the crapper last Tuesday, just because it seemed like atheists would have softer, more gentle toilet paper, and better reading material while shitting on the third rock from the sun!

In fact, this is the second time my father has trivialized decisions I've made in my life, the first time being when he found out I was gay, and decided, upon our first conversation since my coming out, to ask me if I was "still being stupid." (Because this decision, too, was obviously decided one random Wednesday morning on the crapper, when I decided that homosexuals were afforded more comfortable toilet seats beside windows with better views...)

Perhaps I'm not understanding something. Maybe I'm being too sensitive when it comes to Dad's words... Perhaps I do still seek his approval on levels I don't even realize, therefore when he makes such grand judgments, they hurt more than they should, or carry more weight to me than they actually do from his perspective?

All I know is I'm pissed, and until I can calm down, I can't talk to him about it, otherwise I, too, my end up saying something stupid to the father I love... Hell, maybe I'll pull a classic Hughes maneuver and just never bring it up again--who knows? (We Hughes men rock at not talking when we get in the mood...)

I just... Sigh... I just don't get my father sometimes...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Death of a Betsy...

It's writing challenge time, brought to you by Indie Ink. New contestants: Twisted; New feedback and comments: Terrific; Not meeting deadlines: Terrible. For everything else, there's me.

Welcome to Week 15.

Week 15.
My Challenger: Kat
My Challenge: Your car breaks down on a deserted road....
Who I am Challenging: Tara Roberts
What I Challenged Them With: Danger, intrigue, and romance...

The Death of a Betsy...

They never tell you about this kind of darkness, do they? Under the new moon (Whoever dreamed up that stupid term, anyway? Saying NO MOON was too simple and straight forward?) with only the pinpricks of light blinking, winking through the trees. No houses, no street lights...

I would call it "utter," but the blasted stars leave just enough to make every shadow a monster with gleaming fangs, every rotted stump a crouched predator of unimaginable cunning and stealth.

Yes, this is the darkness your parents shielded you from with your Disney Princess Ariel nightlight. This is the murky deep shade of gray that never quite descended as long as the neighbors left their outside lights on all night, every night, even as your father groused how nice it must be to never have to worry about the electric bill. This was the chilly, dank, foggy night where horror stories found root, where urban legends became reality, and where even Stephen King would piss his pants.

Somehow imagining the king of horror looking for those Depends he bought at Sam's Club in the backseat makes me feel slightly better.

I stare over at Betsy, the hunk of junk "car" (if such a term could still be used to describe her) that decided to commit suicide this evening on this deserted stretch of road, miles from service stations, street lights, and cell phone reception. Miles from light, miles from life.

Unimaginably dark miles.

"This could never happen with a hover car," I grumble out loud, if for nothing more than the comforting sound of a human voice, even if it was my own. And then I regret the decision, knowing that even now, the People of the Woods have heard my grousing and are zeroing in on my position, ready to torture me as they string me up by chains in their deserted and broken-down barns, grinning their evil cavity-infested yellowed grins, swigging moonshine from a bottle that hasn't been new since the late 1700s. They would raise their farming instruments high over their heads while laughing maniacally, having not had fresh human meat in months to feed their cannibalistic appetites. Torches would be involved, I'm quite sure of that. As they marched me through the woods, using an old cattle yolk to bind me, I'd trip over the bones of their more recent victims, the skulls who until recently had been seen grinning back at me from the back of my milk carton, flesh now having been consumed...

A noise!

I crouch deeper within myself, scoot slightly higher on the moss covered rock, eyes trying to divine the malevolent presence...

A bat pirouettes above. An owl questions it's own existence. The wind whispers of the happier places it's been, of it's depression at ending up here.

I allow my muscles to relax. I can't be the only person who uses this road, right? Why else would it have been built? Unless it's one of those "pork barrel spending" things I've heard so much about on the radio of the dead Betsy just hours earlier...

"Great. I'm gonna die because my government built a road it didn't need with money it didn't have because a car that was made overseas and not here in the U.S. decided to die."

I've got to stop this "talking out loud" thing...

Mountain lions. They were on the news as well. Something about a jogger in a California park having been mauled to death in a suburb of Fresno or something.

And this wasn't Fresno. So, of course there would be even more mountain lions here, yes?

Scooting higher on the rock once more, I await my fate as they crouch behind that stump, that tree, behind that boulder across the way. Or--no, they'd use Betsy as cover, slowly creeping up along her far side to within feet of my exposed flesh, smelling my fear, my sweat, my raw human aura radiating out the stench of blood and death. Her cubs would be mewling in their not-too-far-away cave, and she would see me as easy prey, my plump American obesity a rare delicacy in these remote parts of possum and raccoon land. Her low, deep growl would be the only warning I'd get before she pounced, her teeth clamping tightly around my neck, her claws slicing swathes of flesh from bone, my blood spilling out onto the asphalt...

"SHUT UP!" I command my brain.

"Goddamn car," I then mutter.

And then a beam of light cuts through the trees. Yes--yes! The hum of a motor! A CAR! A human! Rescue! Suddenly I'm Gilligan, knowing that this time I will be rescued, this time I will get home!

As the lights begin to brighten slowly, though, I remember all those stories, of how hitchhiking gets you killed. They pretend to be friendly, invite you to put your bag in the back, take a seat, what's your name, where you from? Before you know it, you're spilling your sob story. As you are trapped in a torrent of feelings, you have no clue where he's driving you toward, or away from. No idea who they are, what they do, why they are out on this deserted stretch of road at three a.m.! Then you realize the door handle is missing from your side of the car, that the window on your side won't go down. You see the gun on his lap aimed straight at you, and the evilness of his soul is bared as he stares at you and begins to tell you of how he will ravage your body, how you will never see your family or loved ones again, how you are the newest prisoner in a long line of pretty young things he keeps locked up in his momma's basement and how much you'll love being his newest pet and how the others will show me the ropes and how to behave...

I almost climb back into the shadows of the trees.


My head whips around. "Dad? Dad!"

"We've been looking for you for hours! What happened?"

I jerk my thumb toward Betsy. "She finally died, Dad."

"I'm sorry to hear that. I guess this means we'll be out here tomorrow, getting her towed."

"I'm so glad to see you!"

"Well, it wasn't like you not to call, so I knew you must've been out here somewhere with old reliable," he said, jerking his own thumb in Betsy's direction. "I hate to say, it ain't the first time, but it will be the last. What kind of dad would I be, letting you get deserted half a dozen times?"

I hop into his beat-up truck, with what I'm sure is the biggest grin I've ever had the pleasure of sharing. "Thanks, Dad!"

Previous Challenges I have answered: